Like any human endeavour, the Canadian Navy has weathered controversies.
In its 100+ year history, the Navy has endured periods of severe underfunding and government indifference, fought free of dependence on its parent organization, the Royal Navy, to establish its own history, and participated effectively and with distinction in the First and Second World Wars, the Korean War, and numerous strategic initiatives and deployments.
As Canada's Navy enters its next century, it seems an appropriate time to analyze stresses and strains that have challenged its existence.
CFB Esquimalt Naval & Military Museum is launching a series of articles dealing with some of the controversies that have beset the Navy, and their outcomes. The first article in the series, Dissension in the Ranks: RCN Mutinies, was guest written by Dr. Richard Gimblett of Dalhousie University and deals with a rash of protests amongst aggrieved sailors serving aboard Canadian ships during the late 1940s.
In true Canadian fashion, these protests led to the formation of a commission of inquiry, whose findings became the Mainguy Report (named after the commission's chairman, Rear-Admiral Rollo Mainguy, Flag Officer Atlantic Coast). Described as "a watershed in the Navy's history", the Mainguy Report's recommendations and conclusions remain a potent legacy.
Another well-known controversy, the so-called Uganda Episode, is the subject of Sub-Lieutenant Malcolm Butler's article. He examines the circumstances surrounding a decision by the crew of HMCS UGANDA while serving in an active theatre of war during World War II, to vote against fighting on in the Pacific, a decision which continues to be debated, misunderstood and misinterpreted.
The newest addition to "Controversies", examines the Canadian government's botched effort during the 1960s to unify the Forces. The article, Integration and Unification of the Canadian Forces, by naval historian Dr. Wilf Lund, reviews the circumstances surrounding this unfortunate initiative, which came close to demoralizing the Navy.
To quote philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, "out of life's school of war: what does not destroy me, makes me stronger." In the case of Canada's Navy, controversies and upsets have taken their toll, but the Navy sails on ...